Emerging TechnologyThe IoT 2019: Many “things” ahead, but here are four predictions

The IoT 2019: Many "things" ahead, but here are four predictions

Bain & Company forecasts that the market for the Internet of Things will grow to about $520 billion by 2021. Here are four predictions for the IoT in 2019.

There may be no more important tech buzzword these days than the “Internet of Things,” aka the IoT. Important and yet massively ambiguous.

The IoT means so many things. It has awkwardly come to represent a disparate collection of “smart” technologies and connected devices that are as diverse as they are intelligent.

The promise of the IoT is enormous — but that promise has less to do with the connectivity of the Things, and more to do with the interaction of the things. That is, how connected devices interact with each other and with humans to solve different problems. Many problems.

With that in mind, here are four important IoT trends that’ll rise above the rest in 2019 — and what it all means for us humans.

IoT device proliferation won’t just grow in 2019 — it’ll explode

Here’s something that won’t surprise anyone: The IoT is growing! A few stats:

  • Statista forecasts that the total number of connected devices will reach nearly 27 billion by the end of this year, and 75 billion by 2025.

  • In a 2015 report, Ericsson projected that there will be 29 billion connected devices and 18 billion IoT devices by the end of 2022.

  • IDC predicts that total spending on the IoT will reach $1.2 trillion in 2022.

  • And Bain & Company forecasts that the combined markets of the Internet of Things — which includes IoT hardware, software, systems integration, and data and telecom services —  will grow to about $520 billion in 2021.

The way these different IoT forecasts are defined is as fuzzy as the buzzy “IoT” acronym itself. But here’s what we can make of it: Interconnected devices, services, and applications related to the IoT will grow explosively for the next several years.

There are two big drivers for this massive growth:

  • The cost of manufacturing connected devices is going down as the technology matures. And with that comes a wider range of IoT devices, from industrial and enterprise applications to consumer home automation (e.g. thermostats and smart air filters) and smart automobiles — and even to eyebrow-raising “innovations” like connected underwear and dental floss.

  • The networks and technologies (including software) that connect and power these devices are becoming increasingly powerful. In other words, the stuff that enables the interaction of things.

Put another way, IoT devices are becoming cheaper. And we can connect these smart things to do cool stuff much more easily than ever. So the growth won’t be just linear — it’ll accelerate.

And, oh by the way, if Statista is right, then by 2025 there will be roughly nine connected devices for every human on the planet. That’s a lot of smart things.

5G rollout begins with niche industrial IoT applications

Speaking of networks, 5G will be worth watching in 2019. There’s little question that the benefits of 5G — faster connection speeds, lower latency, and greater range — will become a backbone for the IoT in the not-too-distant future.

Just don’t expect widespread 5G adoption this year because the public infrastructure isn’t ready.

However, according to Gartner, 66% percent of businesses have plans to deploy some 5G technology by 2020. They reported, “Organizations expect 5G networks to be mainly used for Internet of Things (IoT) communications and video, with operational efficiency being the key driver.”

In 2019, we could easily envision some compelling niche applications in manufacturing, field service monitoring, and supply chain management. In fact, many see 5G as an enabler of the “factory of the future.”

Voice-as-an-interface will continue to grow

Remember the confused reaction many of us had when Amazon, in 2014, first announced Echo, with an AI-powered assistant Alexa on board?

“So, it’s a speaker that I talk to?”

Well, much has changed since, including our digital habits. My family members are now routinely asking Alexa for weather updates, to play that new Imagine Dragons song, and to make fart noises (guilty).

And although the Echo devices throughout my home were originally more of a novelty, they now offer far greater utility than ever before. I’ve added smart switches to my lights and fans, and now find myself using voice commands to control all those things in my home.

By the end of 2018, as many as 50% of U.S. households had a home assistant. Google has since entered the market. Amazon, the company largely responsible for this trend, introduced a whopping 15 new Alexa-powered devices during a September 2018 press conference. Meanwhile, Alexa developers have created over 50,000 skills.

As consumers, we’re also becoming increasingly more comfortable and reliant upon using voice to talk with our phones (e.g. Siri and the Google Assistant), cars and smart home accessories.

There’s little doubt about it: Voice is becoming one of the primary interfaces to the digital world

It’s also an enabler for a wide range of IoT applications and devices where tapping a touchscreen or pressing buttons on a keyboard is cumbersome or unnatural. After all, we humans have been using our voices as a means to communicate for thousands of years. So communicating with a digital agent using our voices just makes sense.

So what does this mean for 2019? For one, expect a lot more sales of devices with a voice interface. Also, a wave of new voice-powered devices and accessories will come to market — including many third-party devices with licensed versions of Alexa on board.

But also watch for innovation in AI from the market leaders, including Amazon, Google, and Apple. There’s a lot of work to do — particularly in the area of natural language processing — to help our favorite digital assistants understand more than just simple voice interactions.

Connected device growth will enable blockchain

As a blockchain development company, we’re bullish on blockchain’s potential to change how we do business. And of course, we’re not alone — the hype around the emerging technology has been astounding.

But what will it take for blockchain to take hold, and truly transform business? For one: time. Decentralizing our data systems is far from trivial, both because the technology is immature and our ability to understand how best to use the technology is raw. (Many companies are now building proof-of-concept blockchain apps to better understand its potential).

However, one of the key ingredients that doesn’t get much attention is the input devices at the front end of a blockchain. Blockchain serves as an unchangeable, or immutable, historical record for different data events. But for decentralized blockchain networks to take root, the data needs to come from somewhere. In other words, decentralized, connected input devices.

Take Walmart’s notable blockchain pilot, which is tracking some of the retail giant’s food from farm to table. One of the biggest challenges to its project, according to Computerworld, has been data capture. “You’ll have to have at minimum a smart device and connection to the internet,” Walmart’s vice president of food safety Frank Yiannis said. “While in years past that may have been a big hurdle, today it’s not a significant hurdle.”

The explosion of connected input devices, aka. the IoT, will also be an enabler for blockchain.

Adam Fingerman is co-founder and chief experience officer for ArcTouch, a San Francisco-based app developer that builds smart software solutions which are the true brains behind mobile and the IoT.

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